Daily on Defense: Border deal DOA, Ukraine aid in peril, Blinken back in Mideast, retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria, McKenzie’s advice to Biden

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BY JAMIE MCINTYRE

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FROM 'CATCH AND RELEASE' TO 'DETAIN AND DEPORT': After months of hard-nosed negotiation behind closed doors in the Senate, the text of a compromise $118 billion national security supplemental budget bill, which includes major concessions from the Democrats on border security and desperately needed aid for Ukraine, was released last night. Senators now have two days to read and digest it before a Wednesday vote.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), the lead GOP negotiator, said the bill contains all the most vital reforms Republicans have demanded and called it a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to close our open border."

"The bill provides funding to build the wall, increase technology at the border, and add more detention beds, more agents, and more deportation flights. The border security bill ends the abuse of parole on our southwest border that has waived in over a million people. It dramatically changes our ambiguous asylum laws by conducting fast screenings at a higher standard of evidence, limited appeals, and fast deportation," Lankford said in a statement. "New bars to asylum eligibility will stop the criminal cartels from exploiting our currently weak immigration laws. The bill also has new emergency authorities to shut down the border when the border is overrun, new hiring authorities to quickly increase officers, and new hearing authorities to quickly apply consequences for illegal crossings. It changes our border from 'catch and release' to 'detain and deport.'"

"I am grateful to Senator Lankford for working tirelessly to ensure that supplemental national security legislation begins with direct and immediate solutions to the crisis at our southern border," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in his statement. "America's sovereignty is being tested here at home, and our credibility is being tested by emboldened adversaries around the world. The challenges we face will not resolve themselves, nor will our adversaries wait for America to muster the resolve to meet them. The Senate must carefully consider the opportunity in front of us and prepare to act."

"The bipartisan border security agreement reached by Sens. Chris Murphy, Kyrsten Sinema, and James Lankford is a real opportunity for Congress to address our borders and make progress towards a more efficient and well-resourced system," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said. "This agreement improves an adjudication system that has been underfunded for decades by hiring more front-line personnel, asylum officers, and creating new processes to provide faster and fair decisions."

"The challenges we face will not resolve themselves, nor will our adversaries wait for America to muster the resolve to meet them," Schumer said. "The Senate must carefully consider the opportunity in front of us and prepare to act."

SENATE RELEASES LONG-AWAITED UKRAINE-BORDER BILL AHEAD OF EXPECTED WEDNESDAY VOTE

PERFECTION IS THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD: The metaphorical ink wasn't dry on the historic compromise before House Republicans lined up to kill it, led by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who after demanding border security reform as a condition of Ukraine aid now says no new legislation is needed, arguing President Joe Biden could close the border with a few strokes of his pen via executive order.

"He knows that. I’ve told him that and he refuses to do it. That and a few other changes would wipe this problem out, but he won’t do it," Johnson said on Fox News, aligning his strategy to prevent a vote on the Senate measure with former President Donald Trump's desire to campaign on the border crisis, all while Johnson insists he, not Trump, is calling the shots.

The Senate bill would sail through the House with a large bipartisan majority, but Johnson opposes not only the border reforms but also Ukraine aid, citing a lack of a "clear message" from the White House on the "end game" for Ukraine’s war to defend its sovereignty. "We all understand it’s critically important to not allow Vladimir Putin to march through Europe," he said. "We have to secure the American border first before we can talk about anything else around the world."

"I've seen enough. This bill is even worse than we expected, and won't come close to ending the border catastrophe the President has created. As the lead Democrat negotiator proclaimed: Under this legislation, 'the border never closes,'" Johnson posted on X last night. "If this bill reaches the House, it will be dead on arrival."

Johnson has countered with a stand-alone bill that would provide aid to Israel, which Biden has said he won't sign and Democrats have rejected. "The move he’s taken to offer an Israel-only deal is very dirty pool. It’s an act of staggering bad faith," Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) said on CBS's Face the Nation. "What’s happening here is that the speaker is taking a move to get Israel aid done, which most of us support … but that will allow him to ultimately not do a border deal because there are Republicans … who would rather that problem be an issue in November and that it not be solved. And there are roughly 50% — we know this from the votes — of Republicans who oppose Ukraine aid."

HOUSE REPUBLICANS VOW TO KILL SENATE BORDER-UKRAINE DEAL AFTER TEXT RELEASED

WE'VE SEEN THIS MOVIE BEFORE: If a bipartisan coalition in the House is unable to muster the votes to bring the bill to the floor for a vote by way of a discharge petition, the legislation would die an untimely death in the House, a repeat of the last major immigration reform effort in 2013. Then, as now, a bipartisan group in the Senate, known as the Gang of Eight, negotiated an immigration bill that passed by a strong majority, 68-32, with 14 Republicans joining all Democrats.

Then-President Barack Obama was ready to sign the bill, which among other things would have allowed a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers who were brought to America as young children. But then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) refused to allow a vote on the bill because it was not supported by a majority of the majority in the House. 

"The cynicism and hypocrisy is startling," Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY) said on MSNBC. "They have completed a bipartisan deal that, by all accounts, has many measures that Republicans have been crying for decades. Now, as it’s ready to become law, they want to sabotage it and undermine it."

"And the only reason is because Donald Trump wants to use the border as a political weapon, as a political cudgel, and he can’t do that if a bipartisan group actually passes legislation to solve the issues at the border," Goldman said. 

'AMNESTY' OR BORDER CRACKDOWN? WHAT'S IN THE SENATE'S $20 BILLION IMMIGRATION DEAL?

Good Monday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre's Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Stacey Dec. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at DailyonDefense.com. If signing up doesn't work, shoot us an email and we'll add you to our list. And be sure to follow me on Threads and/or on X @jamiejmcintyre

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP OR READ BACK ISSUES OF DAILY ON DEFENSE

HAPPENING TODAY: Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks will preside at the change-of-command ceremony at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado as Air Force Gen. Gregory Guillot assumes command of the U.S. Northern Command from Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck. The 12 p.m. Eastern time ceremony will be streamed live on the Pentagon's website.

ALSO TODAY: BLINKEN BACK IN THE MIDEAST: Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Saudi Arabia today as he embarks on his fifth trip to the Middle East since the Oct. 7 attacks. 

"The Secretary will continue diplomatic efforts to reach an agreement that secures the release of all remaining hostages and includes a humanitarian pause that will allow for sustained, increased delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza," the State Department said. "He will continue work to prevent the spread of the conflict, while reaffirming that the United States will take appropriate steps to defend its personnel and the right to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea."

"We’ve been clear from the beginning that we believe that Israel has a right to respond to the horrific attacks of Oct. 7," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on CBS. "But we’ve been equally clear that we have to look out for and respond to the immense and terrible suffering of the Palestinian people. And that means pressing Israel on issues related to the humanitarian assistance that we have helped unlock and get into the Gaza Strip."

Blinken also has planned stops in Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and the West Bank over the next four days.

ISRAEL MILITARY SEIZES HAMAS FUNDS AND INTELLIGENCE FROM GAZA BANK AS IT SUGGESTS OPERATIONS MAY CONTINUE FURTHER SOUTH

BIDEN'S ANSWER TO IRAN: As President Joe Biden has promised for days, the U.S. hit back at Iranian-linked militias and Iranian Quds Force fighters in Iraq and Syria on Friday, in what was described as round one of retaliatory strikes for the drone attack that killed three U.S. soldiers in Jordan last week.

"What happened on Friday was the beginning, not the end, of our response, and that there will be more steps, some seen, some perhaps unseen, all in an effort to send a very clear message that when American forces are attacked, when Americans are killed, as three service members tragically were at Tower 22, we will respond and we will respond forcefully and we will respond in a sustained way," Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, said on CBS. 

"U.S. military forces struck more than 85 targets at seven facilities utilized by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the militant groups that they sponsor," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in a post-strike conference call. "Numerous aircraft, including B-1 bombers, dispatched from the United States were involved in this operation, firing more than 125 precision-guided munitions over the course of about 30 minutes. Target facilities included command and control centers as well as headquarters buildings and intelligence centers; rocket, missile, and drone storage facilities; and logistics ammunition supply chain facilities."

"The initial indications were that we hit exactly what we meant to hit, with a number of secondary explosions associated with the ammunition and logistics locations," Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims said. "We're not trying to send a signal to anybody other than those who mean Americans harm. And in this case, we struck targets that got after exactly that. … And the B-1 allowed us to do that, again, from the United States. It enables us to do so at a time that we choose and with a significant number of munitions."

While the U.S. said the strikes were designed to limit civilian casualties, the Iraqi government, militia groups, and a local monitoring network said dozens of fighters and several civilians were killed in the strikes.

US TO MAKE 'ADDITIONAL STRIKES' ON IRAN-BACKED TARGETS: JAKE SULLIVAN

McKENZIE: STOP SAYING WE DON'T WANT ESCALATION: Retired Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, former leader of the U.S. Central Command, said the Biden administration is sending the wrong message by constantly asserting the U.S. doesn't want escalation to a wider war.

"Look, I agree, escalation is dangerous, but if the greatest fear is escalation, we should leave. We can reduce the danger of escalation to zero if we leave," McKenzie said on CBS Sunday. "Clearly, we have higher priorities than preventing escalation. So, we should recognize that."

"What happens when we say, well, we’re going to strike targets in Iraq and Syria, we’re not going to strike targets in Iran?" he said. "That gives them aid and comfort. That’s not a good thing to do. And what we want to do is induce in their minds, in their cognitive space, a concern about continuing on this path and what it might mean to them."

GRAHAM SAYS IRAN IS NOT 'AFRAID OF US' AND CALLS FOR US TO CHANGE POLICY

MEANWHILE IN THE RED SEA: It was a very busy weekend for U.S. forces in the Red Sea, with U.S. warships shooting down more than a dozen drones aimed at ships while launching airstrikes to knock out Houthi missiles and drones on the ground in Yemen.

Friday, Feb. 2USS Carney shoots down one drone over the Gulf of Aden, U.S. strikes take out four Houthi UAVs on the ground in Yemen, and U.S. F-18s from the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower shoot down seven drones over the Red Sea.

Saturday, Feb. 3 — U.S. strikes take out six Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles on the ground, and later the U.S. and U.K. conduct strikes against 36 Houthi targets at 13 locations in Yemen. In a separate strike, another Houthi anti-ship cruise missile is taken out.

Sunday, Feb. 4 — U.S. forces conduct a strike against a Houthi land attack cruise missile and then take out four anti-ship cruise missiles, all of which were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea.

HOUSE REPUBLICAN CALLS TO REIMPOSE TRUMP OIL SANCTIONS ON IRAN, SAYS BIDEN 'INVITED' ATTACKS ON US TROOPS

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

THE RUNDOWN: 

Washington Examiner: Senate releases long-awaited Ukraine-border bill ahead of expected Wednesday vote

Washington Examiner: 'Amnesty' or border crackdown? What's in the Senate's $20 billion immigration deal?

Washington Examiner: House Republicans vow to kill Senate border-Ukraine deal after text released

Washington Examiner: White House touts Senate border bill's authority but stays quiet on legislative strategy

Washington Examiner: Speaker Johnson denies Trump is 'calling the shots' on border talks

Washington Examiner: Mike Johnson adamant Biden has authority to act on border crisis

Washington Examiner: Speaker Johnson announces standalone Israel aid bill to counteract Senate border package

Washington Examiner: White House slams proposed GOP Israel aid bill: 'Latest cynical political maneuver'

Washington Examiner: GOP governors and 'God's Army' caravan descend on border with urgent call to end immigration crisis

Washington Examiner: US begins retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria for killed troops

Washington Examiner: US to make 'additional strikes' on Iran-backed targets: Jake Sullivan

Washington Examiner: Syria and Iraqi officials angered by US retaliatory strikes

Washington Examiner: Graham says Iran is not 'afraid of us' and calls for US to change policy

Washington Examiner: House Republican calls to reimpose Trump oil sanctions on Iran, says Biden 'invited' attacks on US troops

Washington Examiner: GOP governors and 'God's Army' caravan descend on border with urgent call to end immigration crisis

Washington Examiner: Greg Abbott has spent $120 million in taxpayers' dollars bussing migrants to Democrat-run cities

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Republicans agitate base on immigration at a cost

Washington Examiner: Rubio urges UN chief to fire head of UNRWA in wake of employees' Hamas connections

Washington Examiner: Israel military seizes Hamas funds and intelligence from Gaza bank as it suggests operations may continue further south

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Europe rightly does more for Ukraine

Washington Post: U.S. strikes in Syria and Iraq kill dozens of militants

Washington Post: Ukraine informs U.S. about decision to fire top general

Washington Post: Decision leaves Ukraine guessing who will be next commander

NBC News: Onboard a U.S. aircraft carrier, a cat-and-mouse game with Houthi forces plays out

Air & Space Forces Magazine: 

New York Times: Fear and Ambition Propel Xi's Nuclear Acceleration

Politico: Air Force Preps for Mega Overhaul with an Eye Toward China

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Four B-52s Arrive in Guam to Support Large PACAF Exercise with Australia and Japan

DefenseScoop: Switchblade 600 Kamikaze Drones in the Running for Replicator Mass Production

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Haugh Becomes First Airman to Take Command at CYBERCOM

Aviation Week: US Air Force Adding Auto GCAS To T-7As

Breaking Defense: As the Heat Rises with F-35 Upgrades, Inside Collins's Bet on a New Cooling System

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Opinion: Now Is Not the Time to Go Weak on the F-35

Defense News: Space Force to Put Firms Under Contract for Commercial Reserve by 2025

Breaking Defense: Space Force Effort to Replace Aging Space Tracking Software Lagging: DOT&E

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Why Does It Take So Long to Get a CCAF Transcript?

Wall Street Journal: Could a Rogue Billionaire Make a Nuclear Weapon?

Politico: Pentagon to MAGA world: You need to calm down over Taylor Swift

THE CALENDAR:

MONDAY | FEBRUARY 5

12 p.m Peterson Space Force Base — Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown speak at the change of command ceremony as Air Force Gen. Gregory Guillot assumes command of the U.S. Northern Command from Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck https://www.defense.gov/News/Live-Events

2 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE — Heritage Foundation discussion: “An Agenda for Regaining America’s Maritime Security and Competitiveness,” focusing on the threat from China with Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) and Brent Sadler, senior research fellow at the Heritage Center for National Security https://www.heritage.org/asia/event/agenda-regaining-americas-maritime-security

3 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group virtual discussion: "Munitions Production Roundtable," with Douglas Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology; Cynthia Cook, director, DIIG, and senior fellow, CSIS International Security Program; and Alexis Lasselle Ross, senior associate (nonresident), CSIS, and member, Army Science Board https://www.csis.org/events/munitions-production-roundtable

TUESDAY | FEBRUARY 6

7:30 a.m. — Association of the U.S. Army "Coffee Series," with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George https://www.ausa.org/events/coffee-series/gen-george

9 a.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion: beginning at 9 a.m., on “The Global Race to Develop and Regulate Artificial Intelligence,” with Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY); Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA); Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology; and Linda Moore, president and CEO of TechNet https://www.youtube.com/c/WashingtonPostLive

11:30 a.m. — Middle East Institute virtual conference: “The Houthis, Iran, and Red Sea Security," with State Department Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register

2 p.m. 2212 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee Quality of Life Panel: "Member Day," to provide an opportunity to hear from members of Congress on their perspectives regarding military quality-of-life issues https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings/quality-life-panel-member-day

WEDNESDAY | FEBRUARY 7 

8 a.m. 4301 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia — Intelligence and National Security Alliance discussion: “Zero Trust with Zero Budget,” with Gurpreet Bhatia, principal director for cybersecurity at the Defense Department; Alexis Bonnell, chief information officer at the Air Force Research Laboratory; Neal Ziring, technical director of the National Security Agency’s Cybersecurity Directorate; Steve Orrin, chairman of Intel Corporation’s Cyber Council; and John Doyon, INSA executive vice president https://www.insaonline.org/detail-pages/event

9 a.m. 2212 Rayburn — House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee: "State of DoD Housing and Aging Infrastructure," with testimony from Brendan Owens, assistant secretary of defense for installations, energy, and environment; Rachel Jacobson, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and environment; Meredith Berger, assistant secretary of the Navy for installations, energy, and environment; and Ravi Chaudhary, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, energy, and environment https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings/readiness-subcommittee-state-dod-housing-and-aging-infrastructure

10 a.m. — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace virtual discussion: “Political Violence in America,” with Mary McCord, former acting assistant attorney general for national security, and Aaron David Miller, CEIP senior fellow https://carnegieendowment.org/2024/02/07/political-violence-in-america

2 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW — Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion: “Unifying Transatlantic Perspectives Amidst Divisive Challenges,” focusing on support to Ukraine, the contentious threat landscape in the Black Sea region, and Bulgaria-U.S. relations, with Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov https://www.csis.org/events/unifying-transatlantic-perspectives

2:45 p.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW — Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy Program discussion: “Two years into the Russia-Ukraine war,” with Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide; Suzanne Maloney, vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution; and Fiona Hill, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe https://www.brookings.edu/events/two-years-into-the-russia-ukraine-war

5 p.m. 1521 16th Street NW — Institute of World Politics discussion: “The Perspective of an American Advisor to Putin’s Transition Team,” with James Carter, senior fellow at the American First Policy Institute’s Center for American Prosperity https://www.iwp.edu/the-perspective-of-an-american-advisor-to-putins-transition-team

7 p.m. 610 Water St. SW — Politics and Prose Bookstore book discussion: “Countdown: The Blinding Future of Nuclear Weapons,” with author Sarah Scoles, contributing writer at Popular Science https://www.politics-prose.com/sarah-scoles

THURSDAY | FEBRUARY 8 

9:30 a.m — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: “What is Next for Taiwan?” with Randall Schriver, chairman of the board of the Project 2049 Institute; Sue Mi Terry, senior adviser at Macro Advisory Partners; Mark Lippert, CSIS Korea chairman; and Victor Cha, CSIS senior vice president for Asia https://www.csis.org/events/what-next-taiwan-capital-cable-87

10:30 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “Building U.S. Nuclear Energy Independence: The Russia Connection,” with Ukrainian Minister of Energy German Galushchenko; John Kotek, senior vice president of policy development and public affairs at the Nuclear Energy Initiative; Jennifer Gordon, director of the Atlantic Council’s Nuclear Energy Policy Initiative; and Debra Cagan, senior adviser at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/

11:30 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW — Center for Strategic and International Studies Project on Prosperity and Development discussion: “The Continued Need for Support to Ukraine,” with former Polish President Lech Walesa and Max Bergmann, director of the CSIS Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program and Stuart Center https://www.csis.org/events/continued-need-support-ukraine

12 p.m. 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies discussion: “U.S.-Korea Relations,” with Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) https://sais.jhu.edu/campus-events

12:30 p.m. 14th and F Sts. NW — Arab Center discussion: “Arab Public Opinion of the Gaza War and U.S. Policy,” with Shibley Telhami, professor at the University of Maryland; Sarah Yerkes, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Dana El Kurd, nonresident senior fellow at the Arab Center; Tamara Kharroub, deputy executive director of the Arab Center; and Yousef Munayyer, head of the Arab Center’s Palestine/Israel Program https://arabcenterdc.org/event/arab-public-opinion

1 p.m. Pentagon Briefing Room — Press conference with Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief, National Guard Bureau; and Senior Enlisted Adviser Tony Whitehead, chief, the National Guard Bureau on National Guard priorities for 2024 https://www.defense.gov

1:30 p.m. — Foundation for Defense of Democracies fireside chat: "Victory and Defeat in Ukraine," with Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and Bradley Bowman, senior director, FDD Center on Military and Political Power https://www.fdd.org/events/2024/02/08/victory-and-defeat-in-ukraine

4 p.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW — American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research discussion: “Europe at War? A Conversation with the Secretary General of the European External Action Service,” with Stefano Sannino, secretary general of the European External Action Service https://www.aei.org/events/europe-at-war-a-conversation

3 p.m. —  Rand Corporation virtual discussion: “Reforming DOD’s Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Process for a Competitive Future,” with former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall; Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante; Bob Hale, chairman of the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Reform Commission; Eric Fanning, commissioner of the PPBE Reform Commission; Lara Sayer, executive director for the PPBE Reform Commission; and Stephanie Young, director of the Rand Resource Management Program https://www.rand.org/events/2024/02/PPBE-reform.html

FRIDAY | FEBRUARY 9

1 p.m. 2401 M St., NW — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group "coffee conversation," with Gen. Bryan Fenton, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command. RSVP to Thom Shanker at [email protected]

3:30 p.m. 1030 15th Street NW — Atlantic Council discussion: “Air Force Acquisition Priorities 2024,” with Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics; Clementine Starling, director of the Atlantic Council’s Forward Defense and the Atlantic Council’s Center for Strategy and Security; and Steven Grundman, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Forward Defense and the Atlantic Council’s Center for Strategy and Security RSVP: [email protected] 

QUOTE OF THE DAY
"We know all too well the dangers of conspiracy theories, so to set the record straight — Taylor Swift is not part of a DOD psychological operation. Period."
Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, in response to a query from Politico
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